Contact us:
040 4016 5703 099 6344 0404
Follow us:

What’s Next For Digital Healthcare

If you’re like me, your first telehealth appointment was probably a revelation.

“Wait a second, I don’t have to drive to a clinic, sit around in a waiting room and spend half the day on a simple appointment? I can just see my doctor on Zoom!?”

But as revolutionary as that experience was, it also left me a little underwhelmed. I’m a technology investor and digital native. Where were the digital records? Where was all the health data my wearables were capturing, from heart rate to steps taken? Google knows my every move on the internet, so why was my doctor still in the dark about something far more important—my body?

We’ve just been through a pandemic where virtual appointments were a lifeline for patients and providers dealing with outbreaks and overwhelmed hospitals. But as the pandemic recedes, it’s time for the digital health space to go further. We have so many ingredients that make this industry ripe for an explosion—telehealth, at-home testing, wearable devices, integrated apps and more data than ever.

What’s needed is a way to bring all these elements together, with the aim of providing personalized and proactive experiences—healthcare catered to your personal history and needs, that anticipates issues rather than just treating illnesses.

The good news—for both patients and especially investors in the space—is that it may be closer than you think. Here’s why.

Overcoming The Challenges With Digital Health

Healthcare has been undergoing a slow revolution since the 1990s when authorities around the world began digitizing records with the goal of reducing silos and enabling the sharing of medical information across doctors and hospitals

That experiment has been indicative of digital health as a whole—it took way longer than expected, and in the end, sometimes created more work for doctors than anticipated. When investors look at other technological forays into healthcare, they can see similar problems with expectations not aligning with integration.

Wearable tech, for example, has long been an asset for people with conditions like diabetes, but the broader rollout of data-tracking devices has been hampered by problems with usability for both patients and providers. Consider this—a 2020 survey showed more than 95% of hospitals had access to data analytics apps, but 80% of leaders surveyed said their reliance on that data to inform decisions was “negligible.” It also estimated that 90% of the data collected was going unused.

Without using that information, patient care slips into a one-size-fits-all model that can be inefficient, expensive and reactive. Rather than anticipating conditions before they arise—from heart disease to cancers—medical providers only respond once symptoms have appeared. Instead of harnessing the comprehensive health data available—from digital records to biometrics gathered by everyday wearables like watches and phones—it’s routinely ignored. Instead of personalized treatments based on variables like health history, body type and gender, and even genome, medical providers dispense standard treatments that serve only a portion of the population.

The Tipping Point For True Digital Health

The good news is that the industry may finally be reaching the tipping point with digital health. Accelerated by the global disruption of Covid-19, a new wave of proactive and personalized digital healthcare is poised to go mainstream for a combination of key reasons.

Patients are demanding better digital health options. It’s no surprise that the pandemic ushered in a new era, with virtual health appointments increasing by a factor of 38. According to Deloitte, people are “learning about their health risks, communicating with their doctors in new and different ways, and changing their attitudes about data privacy.” On the usability front, the pandemic caused a wave of digital literacy as people from all generations adapted to life in a remote world. In short, more patients are aware of the potential of this technology and clamoring for better digital treatment options.

For practitioners, the tech is easier to use and more ubiquitous. Pre-pandemic, a clinic hoping to offer telehealth options would have had to navigate endless obstacles. Developing its own digital interface to engage with patients would have been costly and complex, not to mention hamstrung by privacy regulation and approvals. But Covid-19 saw tech startups race into this space, and now medical professionals offering telehealth services have a range of off-the-shelf options as easy to set up as a store on Shopify.

Better digital medical tools have been battle-tested during the pandemic. Over the last two years, tools that were long theorized were put into action and kinks were worked out. Sophisticated at-home testing became the norm as billions of Covid-test kits were distributed worldwide, reducing the need for lab visits. Companies developed wearable devices aimed at detecting early symptoms of Covid-19 and predicting its diagnosis. Tech startups stepped up where healthcare providers have struggled, quickly providing tools that will only grow more mainstream in the years ahead.

Regulation and education are catching up. Digital health will never become fully integrated without buy-in from doctors. While digital health is not yet a common staple of medical education, there are an increasing number of courses available to train “digitally enabled doctors.” This move is happening parallel to increased clarity around regulations on data sharing, which are aimed at enabling patients and providers to streamline access to medical information, making the digital health process a lot easier to navigate. When data is more accessible, and more physicians are trained in how to effectively use it, healthcare will become more personalized, efficient and cost-effective.

For investors, these shifts signal that digital health presents a potential opportunity in the years ahead. The combined impact of the pandemic, plus regulatory changes, means that we’re exiting the dreaded “trough of disillusionment” and entering what Gartner calls the “plateau of productivity,” where mainstream adoption truly begins to take off. These services and technologies will likely only grow more relevant going forward as digital transformation finally penetrates the healthcare sector.

It’s no secret that healthcare, as a whole, is overdue for a transformation. Digital health, for all its false starts, promises to usher in an era of healthcare that understands and anticipates personal needs. Here’s hoping that virtual doctor appointments are just the start.

No Comments Yet.

Leave a reply